The Trail Smoke Eaters didn’t fret long about blowing a two-goal lead with 66 seconds left in regulation time Saturday.
Owen Ozar’s goal 12 seconds after the puck dropped, on the first – and only – shot of overtime, gave the visiting Smoke Eaters a 5-4 B.C. Hockey League playoff win over the hometown Vernon Vipers in front of 2,063 fans at Kal Tire Place, spoiling a frantic, near improbable comeback by the Vipers.
The victory was Trail’s sixth straight in the playoffs, and gives the Smoke Eaters a 2-0 lead in the best-of-seven Interior Conference semifinal, with Games 3 and 4 set for the Cominco Arena Tuesday and Wednesday.
Braeden Tuck drew the assist on Ozar’s second goal of the playoffs, his shot beating Vipers netminder Aidan Porter.
The two teams tied for the most BCHL overtime losses in the regular season with eight each, though overtime has been good to Vernon so far in the playoffs. The Vipers were 3-0 in this year’s post-season entering Saturday’s game. It was Trail’s first post-season overtime contest, which came as a result of a Smoke Eaters’ near-fatal collapse in the waning minutes.
Trail defenceman Trevor Zins was whistled for a tripping penalty at 17:46, giving Vernon a chance to cut the 4-2 Smokies lead with a third power play goal of the evening, and with Porter on the bench, the Vipers had a six-on-four advantage.
That lasted all of 31 second when Vipers veteran Jesse Lansdell took a cross-checking minor in the offensive zone, negating the power play and leaving both teams with four skaters aside. Lansdell was given a game misconduct for his third stick penalty of the game, and many Vernon fans decided it was a good time to head to the parking lot.
With Porter on the bench for an extra attacker, Connor Marritt scored his first of the playoffs at 18:54, deflecting a Jack Judson point shot past Buskey to pull the Vipers to within a goal.
Off the ensuing face-off, Vernon gained control of the puck in the Trail zone, allowing Porter a third trip to the bench, and Michael Young ripped a one-timer from Judson under Buskey’s arm at 19:25 to tie the game.
Buskey finished with 26 saves while Porter made 16 stops as Vernon outshot Trail 30-21.
Trail opened the scoring on Tuck’s fourth of the playoffs at 10:09 of the first period. The Vipers responded with powerplay goals from Teddy Wooding – his first marker of the post-season – at 16:01, and Matt Kowalski (fourth) at 19:43.
Zins tied the game with the only goal of the second period, his second of the post-season, at 14:38.
Trail took a 3-2 lead at 6:24 of the third on Carter Jones’ third of the playoffs, and second of the series, and Kyle Budvarson’s seeing-eye screen shot that eluded Porter at 9:29 gave Trail a 4-2 edge. It was Budvarson’s first goal of the playoffs.